Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Ohio 1st. District Court of Appeals upholds ‘Adam Walsh’ Provision Extending Juvenile Sex Offender’s Registration Requirement Beyond Defendant’s 21st Birthday

Hamilton County’s 1st. District Court of Appeals last week upheld as constitutional a provision of Ohio’s Adam Walsh Act (AWA) requiring juvenile courts to sentence certain juvenile sex offenders to registration requirements that extend beyond the defendant’s 21st birthday. [In Re Raheem L., 2013-Ohio-2423]

“The case involved a Cincinnati youth identified in court records as Raheem L., who was adjudicated a delinquent child for committing an act when he was 16 years old that would have constituted gross sexual imposition had he been an adult,” the Court’s news service summary said. “Hamilton County Juvenile Court committed Raheem to the legal custody of the Department of Youth Services until his 21st birthday, suspending that commitment and putting him on probation instead, but further classifying him as a juvenile offender registrant and a Tier II sex offender/child-victim offender under R.C. 2152.83(A) and imposing the mandatory registration requirements of Chapter 2950, as amended by the AWA, for a maximum compliance period of 20 years .

Raheem’s appeal had pointed out that being classified as a Tier II offender under the AWA he was not eligible to petition for declassification and removal of his registration requirements until three years after completing his suspended term of commitment − effectively extending his sentence for a juvenile offense until his 24th birthday. His attorneys argued that by imposing punishment for delinquency that would extend beyond his 21st birthday, juvenile court violated his right to due process under the state and federal constitutions.

In explaining its decision, the Court here said, ”Raheem cited no case law recognizing a fundamental right of a child to avoid punishment for delinquency that extends beyond the child’s 21st birthday. Moreover, he provides no basis for us to say that such a right is deeply rooted in our nation’s history and tradition. Since their inception, the juvenile courts have constantly evolved as policymakers and courts have grappled with ‘the inherent tension * * * between the goals of rehabilitation and the protection of society.’ In re C.S., 115 Ohio St.3d 267, 2007-Ohio-4919, 874 N.E.2d 1177, at ¶ 75. We believe that tying a fundamental right to this moving target would be unwise. Further, we note that on two recent occasions, the Ohio Supreme Court has upheld various aspects of the blended sentencing framework, which incorporates prison terms for delinquency that are served beyond the child’s 21st birthday. See In re D.H., 120 Ohio St.3d 540, 2009-Ohio-9, 901 N.E.2d 209 (holding that due process does not require a jury when imposing a serious youthful offender dispositional sentence under R.C. 2152.13); In re J.V., 134 Ohio St.3d 1, 2012-Ohio-4961, 979 N.E.2d 1203. We, therefore, conclude that no fundamental right has been implicated in this case….

“(Further)… although the Ohio Supreme Court has stressed the importance of rehabilitation in the juvenile-court system, it has also recognized that the state has “valid interests in enforcing its criminal laws against juveniles and, in at least somecases, in requesting that the juvenile court impose significant penalties in their dispositions * * * .” In re C.S. at ¶ 77. With this in mind, together with our highly deferential standard of review, we cannot say that the punishment authorized by R.C. 2152.83(A) is irrational.”

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